Wednesday, September 06, 2006

71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance (1994)

Early Michael Haneke film demonstrates that his obsession with violence (media, psychological, physical and otherwise) was fully formed from the get-go. It just took him a while to refine it into first-rate cinema. There's certainly nothing wrong with Haneke's mise-en-scene, which is as precise as I've come to expect from the man even at this early stage in his career. There's also plenty fodder for thought, as Haneke spins out a world in which, despite constant interaction, people are essentially on their own. And why not? With the world in the state it's in (newscasts occasionally interrupt the narrative, touching on Somalia and the IRA and Turks vs. Kurds and a dozen other conflicts), who wouldn't retreat into themselves? Faced with overwhelming horror, the characters in this film choose to not pay attention to anything outside their own head. (Note the scene with the refugee kid where he steals a comic book right in front of everyone and nobody says boo.) The dark irony of Haneke's setup is that most of the characters in this film have mirror images or dopplegangers -- for example, the couple looking to adopt is mirrored by the couple with the sick child. This trope is eventually literalized in a strking bit where the refugee child sees another kid across a subway line and they ape each other's movements. The problem is that all of this is a bit too carefully laid out, a bit too determined. This is especially true during the film's last act, and it's mainly a problem of chronology; at the outset, we're told of a shooting in a bank, then we leap back two months, thereby ensuring that the shooting will close out the film. After a while, it seems like we're only being shown chess pieces moved about a board instead of an organic narrative. Intelligent, beautifully made but something of a cold fish; it's best to appreciate this for what it is -- a dry run at thematic and stylistic avenues (right down to the blackout edits) that would later bring forth the superior Code Unknown.

Grade: B-


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home